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STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 9

By: Stats Perform

As always, when you read this, please be aware that I’m not intending to touch on every fantasy football player, but rather a few unique or pivotal opinions. If I don’t touch on some of your guys, by all means, reach out on twitter (@cshcwartz18), and perhaps I’ll get back to you.

Last week was a crazy week for byes, and so is this week. With the Pats, Steelers, Vikings, and three others on a break, many of the best skill-position players are sitting out. This week, we had 1) the trade deadline, 2) Zeke suspended, and then 3) Zeke not suspended anymore! We also saw Deshaun Watson tear his ACL, and other later-week injuries are starting to creep in (such as Pierre Garcon and Redskins receivers). Daily fantasy sites for better or worse can’t update their prices throughout the week – the prices are stuck, and as a result, you can take advantage of discrepancies in price vs. projection in particularly news-volatile weeks, like this one. That’s what I’m trying to help you with in this write-up.

Here are some of my picks:

High-End QB Play: Russell Wilson (vs. WAS) 

Washington’s banged up pass defense is worse than it looks if you just go by yards against. They’re allowing 7.3 yards per attempt, ranking in the bottom 10 of the league. Russell Wilson is on one of his hot streaks, and Seattle has zero ground game to fall back on. With Watson out, Brady on his bye, and Wentz playing against Denver, Wilson is left alone in the top tier. He’s a great cash play, especially on FanDuel, where the next guy I’ll discuss is a bit pricier relative to Draftkings).

Stack Partner: Tyler Lockett – The third-year pro is getting healthier and better each week, topping out at 121 yards on eight targets last week. Richardson got the hype for getting into the end zone twice, but if that regresses, Lockett will be the best value among Seahawks pass-catchers.

High-End QB Play: Jameis Winston, TB (@ NO) 

Due to his shoulder injury, he’s more of a GPP play than in cash. New Orleans’ defense isn’t as bad as advertised, but, largely due to how good the Saints’ offense can be at home, this game has shootout potential. Winston is priced like a low-end QB1 on DFS sites (particularly on Draftkings), but we project him as more of a high- to mid-range QB1. That’s good value when he has so much upside.

Sleeper QB: Drew Stanton, ARI (@ SF)

There are a lot of untrustworthy backup QBs starting this week (Stanton, Beathard, Savage, Osweiler, etc.). Stanton is the best bet of the bunch, as he’s proven to have a bit of fantasy upside. In 2014, during an extended run as Arizona’s starter, he put up 16+ points in two starts out of a three-week stretch, including around 20 points against this week’s opponent, the 49ers. The San Fran defense is worse now, and if you combine that with Stanton’s proven capabilities (relative to other backup QBs), it could be a recipe for very cheap production at QB.

Stack Partner: Larry Fitzgerald – There’s not much to say that isn’t self-explanatory. The deep-threat guys (Nelson and John Brown) could be hurt by the downgrade in QB arm more than a guy who catches slants and screens. He still has PPR upside.

QB Fade: Cam Newton, CAR (vs. ATL)

The top five or six QBs this week are all named Carson Wentz OR have favorable matchups. Cam Newton is a tier below those guys for me, while being priced like a high-end option in DFS. With Atlanta’s offense struggling, this is projected to be more of a defensive matchup than a shootout, and Carolina’s 20.3 expected points aren’t inspiring. Oh and his favorite remaining target, Kelvin Benjamin, was just shipped to Buffalo. Newton possesses his typical low downside without the typical high upside, this week.

High-End RB Play: Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (vs. KC)

Now that Zeke can play, expect him to continue to run angry like he has the past couple weeks. With Le’Veon Bell on a bye and LeSean McCoy having played Thursday, Zeke and Kareem Hunt (the opposing RB in this matchup) are the top tier, and I give the edge to Elliott, with Dallas favored at home and KC’s run defense struggling a bit. With so much high-end WR talent on byes – and that position representing more of a crapshoot – it’s a good strategy to roster both Elliott AND Hunt, and/or the next guy I’ll discuss, while going cheap at the more unpredictable WR position. 

High-End RB Play: Todd Gurley, LAR (@ NYG)

Gurley isn’t quite up there with Hunt and Zeke, but we project him closer to those guys than to the guys below him (Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller types). He’s much cheaper than Hunt and Zeke, though, on DK, which makes him a virtual must-play there. The Giants’ run D has merely been okay (especially with Olivier Vernon out), and it’d look a lot worse in the “fantasy points allowed to RB” department if they hadn’t allowed only two TDs, a fluky number that should regress as long as they allow 4+ yards per carry and 120+ yards per game. Coming off his bye, and with his team favored to win the game, Gurley is a great bet for high-end RB production. 

Stack Partner: Rams Defense – They’re coming off their bye, while the Giants struggled to move the ball at all against Seattle last week (their only TD came on a short field after a turnover). The Rams may be able to dominate time of possession in this game, winning with Gurley and defense. Therefore, the two may be correlated in DFS.

High-End RB Play: Lamar Miller, HOU (vs. IND)

People may think that Miller will take a huge hit with Watson out for the season. It’s true that he’ll see less running room and more stacked boxes. He’ll also, however, get a larger share of touches, as the game plan will certainly veer towards ball control and defense. We project over 16 carries for Miller (sixth-most among this week’s RBs), and don’t forget he’s still playing the bad Colts (a top 5 matchup for opposing RBs). He’s a good DFS play, especially if his ownership will be lower after Watson’s injury.

RB Sleeper: Kenyan Drake, MIA (vs. OAK)

As Sean detailed in his Tiers column, Drake is the more likely Dolphins’ RB to achieve “bellcow” status. He probably won’t, but he’s still the better bet of the two (due to better career stats, more draft capital, and more future money invested in him). This gives him upside and makes him a fine waiver-wire pickup and DFS punt play. We rate Oakland as one of the best defenses to target with opposing RBs, giving Derrick Henry’s former RBBC mate at Alabama particularly high upside this week.

RB Fade: Devonta Freeman, ATL (@ CAR)

Carolina is good against the run, ranking in the top 10 in most metrics. They’re especially formidable with Luke Kuechly back in the fold. Also working against Freeman is his own body, as he claims to be fine but is clearly nursing a shoulder injury and wore the non-contact jersey for most of the week’s practices. He has the most downside of all the high end RB1s this week while priced similarly to them, so he’s a fade for me in DFS. That being said, he’s been a tough guy to project this year (playing well in bad matchups, and poorly in good matchups), so maybe he’ll go off after this gets published.

High-End WR Play: Michael Thomas, NO (vs. TB)

Tampa’s defense is arguably worse against WR than New Orleans’, and it is Thomas who we rank as a top-two WR this week (along with Julio Jones), not Mike Evans. Yes, you read that right – Thomas is a top-two WR this week by default, with Antonio Brown on a bye, and Tom Savage and Brett Hundley ruining DeAndre Hopkins and Jordy Nelson, respectively. Thomas’ consistent volume and yardage (between 77 and 89 yards in five of the last six games) has provided a great floor in season-long head-to-head matchups, but the two TD over that span meant a disappointing ceiling in DFS. He does have some red-zone chops, as demonstrated by nine TD last year, and I fully expect the TDs to start coming. There’s a good chance that happens this week, at home, against a poor pass defense.

High-End WR Play: Sterling Shepard, NYG (vs. LAR) 

Finally, Eli Manning has a warm body at WR to which he can throw with confidence. Shepard isn’t an imposing physical talent, but he’s such a huge upgrade over guys like Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph at WR, that he has immense volume and PPR upside. With so many byes this week, that makes him a solid WR2, and he’s not priced quite like it in DFS, particularly on FD. He’s a good cash play as a great bet to see 8+ targets.

WR Sleeper: Trent Taylor, SF (vs. ARI)

Pierre Garcon is out for the season, and Marquise Goodwin is carefully nursing a back injury. Aldrick Robinson was ineffective last time he was thrust into a large role, and he and Goodwin are more likely to face Patrick Peterson, being on the outside. Slot guy Trent Taylor should lead San Fran in targets and receptions (by default), and even if he catches say three or four passes, he’ll have hit value as a min price guy in DFS. I like him as a punt play that enables you to afford stud QBs and RBs.

WR Fade: Mike Evans, TB (@ NO) 

Despite the matchup at New Orleans, Jameis is priced like a borderline QB1, to reflect some risk involved with his health and performance. This same risk impacts Evans but is not reflected in his price, which implies he’s ranked by others as the top 1 or 2 WR this week. That’s why it’s possible to like Winston’s value but dislike Evans’ – the price just isn’t right. Besides, the Saints D isn’t quite as bad as advertised, particularly rookie CB Marshon Lattimore, who looks like a Pro Bowl-caliber stud.

High-End TE Play: Jack Doyle, IND (@ HOU)

This is more of a cash than GPP play, as he may be over-owned in GPPs due to “point chasing” after his breakout week last week. The 14 targets last week – and 9.8 targets per game over his last four – indicate a good rapport with Jacoby Brissett, giving him a higher floor than most other non-elite TE1 types. He’s particularly cheap on DK and a must-play in cash there.

TE Sleeper: Ed Dickson, CAR (vs. ATL) 

During the time between Kelvin Benjamin’s trade to Buffalo and Greg Olsen’s return from the IR, Dickson should be one of the prime beneficiaries, as he’s now one of Newton’s most dependable and trustworthy targets (see why I’m low on Newton?). Probable volume is enough to separate mid-range TEs from the pack this year, and that’s what I expect from Dickson (low-upside volume). On FD, he’s priced lower than guys like George Kittle and Ryan Griffin who possess similarly low upside and don’t have QBs, so he’s a particularly good play there.

TE Sleeper: Ben Watson, BAL (@ TEN) 

Watson’s a very unsexy borderline TE1, but he’s been one of the more consistent ones this year, with five receptions and/or a TD six of eight games this season. He’s a good bet for volume with so many Ravens pass-catchers banged up, but he’s only the 20th priciest TE on FD and 22nd on DK. This makes him a nice punt play against a mediocre Tennessee defense.

TE Fade: Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. DEN)

You should never totally fade the new king of fantasy TEs. If you have him in season-long, please know we STILL rank him as the No. 1 TE despite the tough matchup. If there were ever a time to fade him in DFS, though, it’s this week. His projected margin over the other TEs is smaller than usual, against the vaunted Denver defense. He’s still priced way higher than other TEs, though, which is weird since Wentz’s price was slashed so much due to the matchup. It’s a good week to find bargains at TE (like the aforementioned Jack Doyle) while spending at RB.